Cancer downgraded, why scientists seek to change the way we classify and treat cancer; the NY Times explores.

Cancer downgraded, why scientists seek to change the way we classify and treat cancer; the NY Times explores.

Cancer, the term sends shivers and fear through the minds and bodies of those who are tested for and diagnosed with the disease. Years of research has brought cancer to the front of our minds as the misunderstood and often life threatening menace that sometimes requires scary and expensive treatments with massive side effects with no guarantees that it would increase one’s survival. It turns out that many growths are not life threatening at all, yet, just the though of having something in ones body that is called cancer causes mental anguish and often rash decisions from those afflicted, even though the growth is not life threatening. By reclassifying many growths, and not calling them cancer, scientists believe may change the way doctors and patients approach the growth and it may in the end save lives, eliminate many unnecessary procedures and their possible side effects.

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Scientists Seek to Rein In Diagnoses of Cancer

A group of experts advising the nation’s premier cancer research institution has recommended changing the definition of cancer and eliminating the word from some common diagnoses as part of sweeping changes in the nation’s approach to cancer detection and treatment.

The recommendations, from a working group of the National Cancer Institute, were published on Monday in The Journal of the American Medical Association. They say, for instance, that some premalignant conditions, like one that affects the breast called ductal carcinoma in situ, which many doctors agree is not cancer, should be renamed to exclude the word carcinoma so that patients are less frightened and less likely to seek what may be unneeded and potentially harmful treatments that can include the surgical removal of the breast.

The group, which includes some of the top scientists in cancer research, also suggested that many lesions detected during breast, prostate, thyroid, lung and other cancer screenings should not be called cancer at all but should instead be reclassified as IDLE conditions, which stands for “indolent lesions of epithelial origin.”

While it is clear that some or all of the changes may not happen for years, if it all, and that some cancer experts will profoundly disagree with the group’s views, the report from such a prominent group of scientists who have the backing of the National Cancer Institute brings the discussion to a higher level and will most likely change the national conversation about cancer, its definition, its treatment and future research.

“We need a 21st-century definition of cancer instead of a 19th-century definition of cancer, which is what we’ve been using,” said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, who was not directly involved in the report.

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